Is the Net Neutrality and Telecom Pricing Dilemma for real ?
Indian Telecom service providers (TSPs) such as Airtel, Idea and Vodafone have been complaining about over-the-top service providers (OTT SPs) such as Whatsapp, Facebook and Viber for more than a year now. Their complaint is two-fold. First of all, these OTT SPs are able to provide competing services of voice calls/text messages without having to pay spectrum license fees, termination charges to other service providers or abide by other security/statutory regulations. Secondly, these OTT SPs are rapidly growing at the expense of, and as if to add insult to injury, on top of the very telecom infrastructure created by these TSPs.
Last year, Airtel proposed a policy of price discrimination, to charge data usage differentially for these communication services. But Airtel was taken aback by the big public outcry especially on social media on the principle of “Net Neutrality” and deferred the price discrimination scheme. Meanwhile, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) seized on the issue and produced a white paper. TRAI has invited suggestions/responses from public on questions raised by the white paper. The objective of this article is to review some of the grievances expressed by Indian TSPs and analyze some of the solutions discussed in the white paper / proposed by policy experts.
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